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Spitzer family photographs

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 2011.55.2

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    Spitzer family photographs

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    The Spitzer family photographs consist of seven prewar, wartime, and postwar photographs of the Spitzer family of Iași, Romania and their relatives. The photographs depict Anton and Fany Spitzer and their children, Sara, Nathan, and Lily as well as Fany’s sister and brother, Chana and Lazar Wax, and a cousin, Simcha Wax.
    inclusive:  circa 1938-1946
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Nathan Shaffir
    Collection Creator
    Spitzer family
    Nat Shaffir was born Nathan Spitzer on December 26, 1936, in Iași, Romania to Anton and Fany (Feige, née Wax) Spitzer. Fany came from Sif (Sieu) Transylvania and was the oldest of 13 children (of which four survived the war and one died immediately afterwards). Anton had two brothers and two sisters. In 1931, Anton and Fany had moved from Transylvania to Bucium, a village near Iași, along with Anton's two brothers. The family owned a large dairy farm that supplied dairy products to the Romanian army. The Spitzers' farm prospered with many head of cattle. Fany managed the household and raised Nat and his two sisters, Sara (b. 1934) and Lili (b. 1938). In 1940, the Fascist Iron Guard visited the farm with a priest who identified the family as Jewish. They confiscated the Spitzers' farm and all the cattle and gave the family four hours to pack up their belongings. The Spitzers could take only one horse and one wagon and had to move to the Socola neighborhood of Iași. The Spitzers lived in an open ghetto and were forced to abide by the anti-Jewish legislation. They were forced to wear a yellow star and received only a small portion of bread and 10 liters of gasoline per week. Nat and his sisters were no longer allowed to attend public school. To make ends meet, Anton purchased 35 cows from a Gentile farmer, which were kept outside the city. He traded dairy products for animal feed with the local officials and sold the remaining milk, cheese, or butter to Jewish families in Iași. Adamant that her children receive an education, Fany bartered milk and cheese for private tutoring for her three children with Jewish teachers in Socola.

    In early 1944, Romanian military authorities took Anton and other able-bodied men from Iași to perform forced labor laying new railroad tracks. For many months the family had no communication with Anton and had no idea if he was dead or alive. Fany and the children were left to manage the dairy business. Nat (age 8) and Sara (age 10) made butter and cheese for the local authorities. Fany continued to barter dairy goods for private education lessons for the children.

    Iași fell to the Russians in July 1944; a few weeks later Anton returned to his family. By that time, most of the Spitzers' extended family, who had remained in Transylvania when it was occupied by Hungary, had been killed. Fany's father and ten of her siblings had been transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald concentration camps by Hungarian gendarmerie in complicity with the Germans. (Her mother had died years earlier in childbirth.) Her father later died of starvation in a forced labor camp. Only two of Fany's brothers, Moshe and Lazar Wax, survived to their liberation. Moshe died shortly after while on board a ship heading to a sanatorium in Sweden; Lazar recuperated in Sweden and later immigrated to the United States.

    After the Communists seized power, the Spitzer children were ridiculed by their non-Jewish classmates and excluded from Communist student groups. It became evident to Anton that continued antisemitism and discrimination provided an unsafe future for his family under Soviet control. In 1947, Anton and Fany decided to leave Romania for Palestine, but their application for an exit permit was repeatedly denied. Eventually Anton bribed local officials to secure passage to Israel. The Spitzer family left Romania in March 1950 aboard a cargo ship called the Transylvania and arrived in the port of Haifa just before Passover.

    While in Israel, Nat served for three years in the Israeli army. He changed his last name to Shaffir in 1959. In 1961, he immigrated to the United States and in 1969 started his own business. He married Merryl Rich of Atlanta, Georgia, in 1970. They have five children and nine grandchildren and live in Maryland, and Nat is a volunteer with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

    Physical Details

    1 folder
    System of Arrangement
    The Spitzer family photographs are arranged as a single series.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    The donor, source institution, or a third party has asserted copyright over some or all of these material(s). The Museum does not own the copyright for the material and does not have authority to authorize use. For permission, please contact the rights holder(s).

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    Iași (Romania)

    Administrative Notes

    Nat Shaffir donated the Spitzer family photographs to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2011 and 2016. Collections accessioned as 2011.55 and 2011.107.2 have been incorporated into this collection.
    Primary Number
    Record last modified:
    2023-04-11 09:41:34
    This page:

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